Skip to main content Accessibility help

Can phytoestrogens cause infertility?

In a nutshell

Plenty of studies show that the hormonal effects of phytoestrogen ingestion (e.g., lower levels of testosterone) could, in theory, result in infertility.

What we lack so far is evidence that this is a real problem in clinical practice. Even so, some level of suspicion may be warranted in infertile patients.



Hide All
1. Kurzer, MS. Hormonal effects of soy in premenopausal women and men. J Nutr. 2002 Mar;132(3):570S573S.
2. West, MC. The impact of dietary oestrogens on male and female fertility. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Jun;19(3):215–21.
3. Jian, L. Soy, isoflavones, and prostate cancer. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Feb;53(2):217–26.
4. Acerini, CL. et al. Endocrine disrupting chemicals: a new and emerging public health problem? Arch Dis Child. 2006 Aug;91(8):633–41.
5. Burton, JL. et al. The effect of phytoestrogens on the female genital tract. J Clin Pathol. 2002 Jun;55(6):401–7.
6. Srilatha, B. et al. Oestrogen-androgen crosstalk in the pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):307–13.
7. Belfroid, AC. et al. Analysis and occurrence of estrogenic hormones and their glucuronides in surface water and waste water in The Netherlands. Sci Total Environ. 1999 Jan 12;225(1–2):101–8.
8. West, MC. et al. Dietary oestrogens and male fertility potential. Hum Fertil (Camb). 2005 Sep;8(3):197207.
9. Bennetts, HW. et al. A specific breeding problem of sheep on subterranean clover pastures in western Australia. Aust Vet J 1946;22:212.
10. Shutt, DA. The effects of plant oestrogens on animal reproduction. Endeavour. 1976 Sep;35(126):110–3.
11. Strauss, L. et al. Genistein exerts estrogen-like effects in male mouse reproductive tract. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1998 Sep 25;144(1–2):8393.
12. Nagao, T. et al. Reproductive effects in male and female rats of neonatal exposure to genistein. Reprod Toxicol. 2001 Jul-Aug;15(4):399411.
13. Faqi, AS. et al. Reproductive toxicity assessment of chronic dietary exposure to soy isoflavones in male rats. Reprod Toxicol. 2004 Jun;18(4):605–11.
14. Nagata, C. et al. Inverse association of soy product intake with serum androgen and estrogen concentrations in Japanese men. Nutr Cancer. 2000;36(1):14–8.
15. Perry, DL. et al. Dietary soy protein containing isoflavonoids does not adversely affect the reproductive tract of male cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis). J Nutr. 2007 Jun;137(6):1390–4.
16. Yousef, MI. et al. Effect of isoflavones on reproductive performance, testosterone levels, lipid peroxidation, and seminal plasma biochemistry of male rabbits. J Environ Sci Health B. 2004;39(5–6):819–33.
17. Adeoya-Osiguwa, SA. et al. 17beta-Estradiol and environmental estrogens significantly affect mammalian sperm function. Hum Reprod. 2003 Jan;18(1):100–7.
18. Fraser, LR. et al. Effects of estrogenic xenobiotics on human and mouse spermatozoa. Hum Reprod. 2006 May;21(5):1184–93.
19. Kumi-Diaka, J. et al. Toxic potential of dietary genistein isoflavone and beta-lapachone on capacitation and acrosome reaction of epididymal spermatozoa. J Med Food. 2003 Fall;6(3):201–8.
20. Setchell, KD. et al. Dietary estrogens--a probable cause of infertility and liver disease in captive cheetahs. Gastroenterology. 1987 Aug;93(2):225–33.
21. Dillingham, BL. et al. Soy protein isolates of varying isoflavone content exert minor effects on serum reproductive hormones in healthy young men. J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):584–91.
22. Kumar, NB. et al. The specific role of isoflavones in reducing prostate cancer risk. Prostate. 2004 May 1;59(2):141–7.
23. Spentzos, D. et al. Minimal effect of a low-fat/high soy diet for asymptomatic, hormonally naive prostate cancer patients. Clin Cancer Res. 2003 Aug 15;9(9):3282–7.
24. Gardner-Thorpe, D. et al. Dietary supplements of soya flour lower serum testosterone concentrations and improve markers of oxidative stress in men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;57(1):100–6.
25. Habito, RC. et al. Effects of replacing meat with soyabean in the diet on sex hormone concentrations in healthy adult males. Br J Nutr. 2000 Oct;84(4):557–63.
26. Goldin, BR. et al. Hormonal response to diets high in soy or animal protein without and with isoflavones in moderately hypercholesterolemic subjects. Nutr Cancer. 2005;51(1):16.
27. Maskarinec, G. et al. Serum prostate-specific antigen but not testosterone levels decrease in a randomized soy intervention among men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Dec;60(12):1423–9.
28. Dalais, FS. et al. Effects of a diet rich in phytoestrogens on prostate-specific antigen and sex hormones in men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Urology. 2004 Sep;64(3):510–5.
29. Hussain, M. et al. Soy isoflavones in the treatment of prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2003;47(2):111–7.
30. Lewis, JG. et al. The effect of isoflavone extract ingestion, as Trinovin, on plasma steroids in normal men. Steroids. 2002 Jan;67(1):25–9.
31. Mitchell, JH. et al. Effect of a phytoestrogen food supplement on reproductive health in normal males. Clin Sci (Lond). 2001 Jun;100(6):613–8.
32. Nagata, C. et al. Effect of soymilk consumption on serum estrogen and androgen concentrations in Japanese men. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2001 Mar;10(3):179–84.
33. Rannikko, A. et al. The effects of short-term oral phytoestrogen supplementation on the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis in prostate cancer patients. Prostate. 2006 Jul 1;66(10):1086–91.
34. Newbold, al. Deleterious effects of genistein following exposure during critical phases of development. Ch.30 in Gilani, GS, Anderson, J. (eds)., Phytoestrogens and health. AOCS Publishing; 2002.
35. Delklos, KB. Evaluation of phytoestrogen safety and toxicity in rodent models that include developmental exposure. Ch.31 in Gilani, GS, Anderson, J. (eds)., Phytoestrogens and health. AOCS Publishing; 2002.
36. Jefferson, WN. et al. Disruption of the developing female reproductive system by phytoestrogens: genistein as an example. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jul;51(7):832–44.
37. Jefferson, WN. et al. Adverse effects on female development and reproduction in CD-1 mice following neonatal exposure to the phytoestrogen genistein at environmentally relevant doses. Biol Reprod. 2005 Oct;73(4):798806.
38. Tan, KA. et al. Infant feeding with soy formula milk: effects on puberty progression, reproductive function and testicular cell numbers in marmoset monkeys in adulthood. Hum Reprod. 2006 Apr;21(4):896904.
39. Strom, BL. et al. Exposure to soy-based formula in infancy and endocrinological and reproductive outcomes in young adulthood. JAMA. 2001 Aug 15;286(7):807–14.
40. Gallo, D. et al. Reproductive effects of dietary soy in female Wistar rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 1999 May;37(5):493502.
41. Lamartiniere, CA. et al. Daidzein: bioavailability, potential for reproductive toxicity, and breast cancer chemoprevention in female rats. Toxicol Sci. 2002 Feb;65(2):228–38.
42. Chandrareddy, A. et al. Adverse effects of phytoestrogens on reproductive health: a report of three cases. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008 May;14(2):132–5.
43. Klein, KO. Isoflavones, soy-based infant formulas, and relevance to endocrine function. Nutr Rev. 1998 Jul;56(7):193204.
44. Setchell, KD. et al. Exposure of infants to phyto-oestrogens from soy-based infant formula. Lancet. 1997 Jul 5;350(9070):23–7.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Can phytoestrogens cause infertility?


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.